Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Loss of biodiversity is rapidly increasing and is expected to have drastic effects on the planet and its ecosystems. The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth and includes not only species that are threatened, or endangered but also every living thing. Including humans, microbes, fungi, and invertebrates. All life on Earth falls under the term biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity is a manmade problem, human dominance over other species and our destruction of habitats alongside climate change inducing habits has caused the steady drop in biodiversity. Deforestation, pollution, litter and migration and expansion are all causing species and habitats to die out. Global warming is currently the big conversation; however, it is important that we do not ignore another ecological crisis we are headed for. Biodiversity gives us with clean air, fresh water, fertile soil, and pollination. It helps us fight climate change and adapt to it as well reduce the impact of natural hazards and disasters. Biodiversity is essential for human and global survival.
Since living organisms interact in ecosystems, if one species goes extinct it can have an unprecedented and drastic effect on the food chain. We do not know exactly what the consequences of mass extinctions would be for humans, however, we know that our survival on this planet is aided by biodiversity. A report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has assessed the changes in biodiversity over the past five decades, outlining causes and effects as well as possible scenarios of what may happen in the decades to come. According to the IPBES report, around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many of which are forecast for extinction in decades. This is more animals and plants at risk of extinction than ever before in recorded history. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. As mentioned, this is primarily the fault of human impact, it is imperative we attempt to reverse this especially as it will affect our lives on this planet. The study found that since 1980 the average global temperature has risen by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius, this aided by the fact that greenhouse gas emissions have more than doubled in this time. Aside from the effects from human pollution, the study found that three-quarters of land environment and 66% of marine environment has faced significance interference from humans. Significantly, over one third of land and 75% of freshwater areas are now assigned to agriculture or livestock production. From these statistics alone it is clear to see the damage that is caused by human demand for the way of life we have become used to in the post-industrial era.
If we look specifically here in the UK, then the situation is somewhat worrying. According to the Biodiversity Intactness Index, the UK ranks as one of the most nature-deficient countries in the world. The new data shows that the UK sits in the bottom 10% worldwide the low ranking is said to be attributed to the industrial revolution in which vast areas of land was transformed into industrial polluted areas. Around half of the biodiversity in the country remains, which when compared to a global average of 75% makes for worrying reading. Furthermore, studies suggest that the global average needs to be around 90% in order to avoid a tipping point into climate disaster. The UK government, however, have failed to reach targets set for decreasing the loss of biodiversity. Once more, the government have come under significant criticism for their decision to pause the release of biodiversity data until 2023. The CBD COP15 UN summit on biodiversity is set to take place in China in 2022, conveniently the UK will not have data to present in what is being billed as a landmark biodiversity summit. The lack of transparency from the government at such a crucial time is very disappointing, to say the least. It begs the question, what are they hiding?
It is not just the UK that need to up their game, prior to the forthcoming UN biodiversity summit, COP15 an open letter has been signed by twelve leading businesses calling on heads of state to act on halting the worldwide biodiversity loss. Signed by executives from companies such as Unilever and H&M, the open letter is demanding world leaders to adopt a similar approach to stopping loss of biodiversity as they did with climate change when they signed the Paris Agreement in 2015. This would include nations signing a pledge to commit to reversing nature loss by 2030, adopt ambitious and actionable targets as well as ensuring to align all financial flows towards a nature-positive world. After COP26 in Glasgow was met with dissatisfaction from the climate conscious due to its failure to really commit to necessary action, it is paramount that the biodiversity COP15 next year is a success. The only way to fight ecological disaster is for all heads of state and big business work together to implement real, rapid change. Next year can either be a turning point or a point of no return.